Ice cold nostalgia: India’s Skippi revamps popsicle category with healthy ingredients
Ice popsicles have been available in India for several decades, but the traditional form of the frosty snack is generally not branded and made from artificial colourings, flavours and ingredients, in addition to water that is not usually up to safety and quality standards.
“We realised that there was essentially nothing happening within the ice pops sector in India, no brands being established and certainly no better options being developed, especially for kids,” Skippi Co-Founder Ravi Kabra told Foodnavigator-Asia.
“Given that India is such a hot and humid country compared to western markets like the UK and US, ice pops are actually a big industry here. So we decided to make a healthier, better, branded version of these, using 100% natural ingredients extracted from fruits and vegetables, including the colours and flavourings.
“Ice pops also have the added advantage over other products such as ice creams which are more of a dessert and can be heavy on the stomach – for ice pops, a consumer could have two or three a day as it’s much lighter on the stomach and not just meant as a dessert. There’s also no direct competition between the two products given how they are meant for different experiences.”
Skippi currently has six flavours in the market – Mango Twist, Orange, Lemon, Raspberry, Cola and Bubblegum – and intends to launch another six more within the next two to three months.
“Cola is the most popular flavour now, probably because it evokes a lot of nostalgic memories for consumers,” said Kabra.
“The majority of our target audience for Skippi Ice Pops are kids, but we’ve found that the nostalgia factor has made adults aged 30-plus amongst our first consumers, as these are healthier options that they can relate to from their schooldays. I’d say right now, at least 30% of our product consumption is by adults.”
Skippi has also managed to alleviate potential problems that could arise from cold chain challenges, given that India does have many cold chain issues at present, by opting to manufacture the ice pops and transport these in liquid form, letting consumers freeze these at home.
“This strategy helped us to solve a lot of major issues, avoiding cold chain problems which can be quite a mess here, and is also more sustainable and allows us to supply to every nook and corner of the country,” said Kabra.
“In addition, exports are our top priority and this strategy will enable us to expand these faster – as it is we’re already sending product to Nepal and have plans for Sri Lanka and Africa, in addition to queries from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
“Just like Pepsi and Coca-Cola essentially created the soft drinks segment, we believe we are creating a whole new unique product segment here for ice pops, and definitely aim to be the market leader here soon”
Shark Tank experience
In addition to being the first ice pop brand in India, Skippi also made headlines recently by successfully emerging as the first brand in India to secure investments from all five ‘sharks’ on Shark Tank India, creating history on the programme.
“It was an amazing experience as from over 66,000 applicants only 67 were funded – and we were the first to have investments from all the sharks,” said Kabra.
“In our pitch, we made sure that our problem statement was clear, highlighting that most ice pops in India are made from dirty tap water and artificial ingredients so many kids get sick and adults don’t eat these, and that there is no brand currently for these; in addition to presenting how we have already settled major issues such as the need for cold chain.
“We also use patented technology to make the ice soft and crunchy – so there is no need to wait (after the product is frozen and out of the freezer) to take that first bite.
“This was appealing to the sharks, and in total they offered us about US$120,000 for 15% equity in the firm, so 3% per shark, and another sixth shark even called us after the programme to ask to get on board with another 3% - so all in all we got INR12mn (about US$160,000) in exchange for 18% of the firm.”
Moving forward, the firm is appointing distributors across the whole country, to enter all forms of retail from supermarkets to mom-and-pop shops.
“In the next six months, we want to be available pan-India with the current six flavours as well as the six more upcoming flavours which will be ‘Indianised’ flavours,” said Kabra.
“After that, we will be looking to add more products to our portfolio, products within the ‘fun’ segment such as snacks and chocolates, but first we want the ice pops to be our flagship product and stabilise first.
“International expansion is also very much on the cards for us, and we are looking for more international partnerships – ice pops will appeal to a lot of countries, especially those with hot and humid climates and we hope to bring our healthier options to the global market.”